Planning an Outdoor Home Theater

A fresh batch of buttery popcorn rests in your lap. You stretch back in supportive cushions of a spacious armchair. The lighting dims and the movie screen glows in the darkness. No, you’re not squeezed into the back row of your neighborhood cineplex — you and your family are sprawled in the comfort of your own backyard, enjoying your favorite comedy under a cozy canopy of stars.

An outdoor home theater is a pipe dream for many, and once you tackle the logistics it’s actually not difficult to execute a modest or sizable DIY outdoor home theater using the outdoor spaces you have available. Home movie theater ideas don’t need to be complex: use these six elements to create a cinematic escape in your yard or on your patio: a projector, screen, or television, a sound system, outdoor seating, lighting, and of course movie snacks! 

That’s it! Let’s dive in and help you plan your dream outdoor home theater.

Choosing a Projector Vs. an Outdoor Television

The main decision you’ll have to make is whether you’re investing in a projector and an accompanying screen, or a flat-screen TV designed for outdoor use. The good news is both of these options are terrific, and there aren’t specific drawbacks to either. Your choice will be determined by where you want your outdoor home theater.

Outdoor Televisions

Outdoor televisions are ideal for more intimate areas. For example, if you have a patio space underneath a second-story deck you can install an outdoor television along the wall under your patio to reduce glare or weather-related issues. We’ll examine seating options further down, but with an outdoor television, you should have seating for two to eight people so everyone gets a great view of the screen.

Televisions constructed for outdoor use often feature cooling fans and heaters, anti-glare coatings on the screens, and components to make the system weather and temperature-resistant. Keep in mind that outdoor-optimized televisions are more expensive than indoor televisions of the same size, especially if they are designed for use in full sunlight.

Braxton 7-Piece Deep Seating Set

Projector and Screen Combo

The alternative to an outdoor television is to buy a projector and install an outdoor screen for a massive viewing surface. Projectors are easier to protect and move than a full television, and you can install a screen practically anywhere in your yard. This setup is ideal for larger back yards and for people with configurations that call for a screen away from the wall of the house. With a projector, you can seat many people depending on your space.

There are a handful of screen options that also range in price. If outdoor movies are going to be a regular occurrence in your backyard, spring for an inflatable outdoor screen or a standing screen — both options will provide a better quality movie-watching experience. If investing in an outdoor screen isn’t for you, a white shower curtain and some fishing line will do the trick. As far as outdoor projectors go, you can experiment with an affordable projector before splurging on a high-end model.

Sound Systems

What’s a home theater without crystal clear audio? Many outdoor home theaters won’t be able to support surround sound based on the size and layout, but you can still choose between portable and simple sound systems that offer rich, layered sound.

Many outdoor speaker systems involve a complicated setup of wires and extension cords, which can cause power issues and some trips and falls when refilling your drink or snack bowl. Avoid a wired setup, especially to mitigate weather concerns. For a minimal and sleek sound system invest in low-profile, high-performance wireless speakers and sound systems like those from Sonos.

Outdoor Seating

Cozying up on blankets may seem appealing, but you should invest in sturdy, weatherproof, comfortable outdoor seating for your home theater. Depending on the weather and the temperature the ground can be wet, so avoid laying blankets on the grass. Sitting on the floor can limit the view of the screen for anyone behind the front row and cause back pains during the movie.

POLYWOOD Outdoor Living Room Furniture

Plan a casual, engrossing home theater environment by planning two or three sections of outdoor living room seating surrounding the screen. Measure your outdoor space to understand how much seating is possible, and then stagger the seating areas to fill the center, left, and right areas of your home theater space so no one has an obstructed view.

An outdoor living room can be partially covered or fully exposed to the elements. Beat the blazing sun, unpredictable rain, and brutal wind by choosing sturdy, weatherproof POLYWOOD outdoor furniture. HDPE lumber won’t crack, rot, split, chip, or fade, providing the perfect outdoor cinema setting for years to come. The quick-drying all-weather performance cushions on our deep seating chairs, sofas, and rockers resist bacteria buildup and will provide plush support for any movie marathon.

Create varied seating spaces so your family members and friends can relax in their preferred setup. Here are three types of seating spaces you can face toward your screen or outdoor television:

Vineyard Adirondack 6-Piece Chat Set with Fire Pit Table

Extend your evening screening series into the fall by gathering around the warmth of a fire pit table with the Vineyard Adirondack 6-Piece Char Set with Fire Pit Table. Vineyard Adirondack chairs feature a contoured seat and waterfall front detail for enhanced comfort. To make this outdoor seating movie ready, simply situate the Adirondack chairs in a semi-circle facing the screen. It’s recommended that you use this set with a taller outdoor screen and projector setup for optimal viewing.

Vineyard Adirondack 6-Piece Chat Set with Fire Pit Table

Braxton 5-Piece Set

Finish off your outdoor home theater seating with a third area spotlighting the sleek design and plush cushions of a Braxton deep seating set. The sofa and matching deep seating chairs can easily fit five people, along with plenty of salty snacks, sweet treats, and delicious drinks on top of the Newport 22″ x 36″ Coffee Table.

Braxton 5-Piece Deep Seating Set

Eclectic Mix

Blending pieces from different collections can help add a variety of seating options for your family. Mixing Adirondack chairs with benches and garden chairs provides you with plenty of seating, but also plenty of space to set down all your delicious movie snacks.

Vineyard Garden Arm Chair  |  Modern Adirondack Chair  |  Farmhouse Trestle 65″ Bench  |  Round 18″ Side Table

Lighting Considerations

Especially if you opt for a projector and a screen you can’t start your blockbuster binge until sundown. This means that it will be very dark once the credits start rolling. In order to avoid stubbed toes or fumbling in the dark to collect your trash and snack trays, you should install two light sources for your outdoor home theater.

Your main light source can be a traditional floodlight designed for outdoor use. The Philips Hue PAR38 Smart LED Bulb allows you to automate your lighting for complete control during nighttime film screenings. Your secondary lighting source should dimly illuminate your walkways so you and your guests can make your way to the kitchen or the bathroom during the movie without plummeting into the pool by mistake.

Movie Snacks

What’s a movie night without bags of buttery popcorn balanced by the sweetness of your favorites candies? There’s really no right or wrong way to pick out movie snacks, just make sure there’s enough to get you and your family through the entire movie!

Final Thoughts

Before you invite your closest friends over for a movie night take the time to debug your backyard so unwelcome mosquitoes don’t spoil your evening. Also, consider cooking up some appetizers and finger food if you plan to host several people for your outdoor movie.

Create the best environment for an outdoor home theater by placing your guests in comfortable and durable POLYWOOD outdoor furniture constructed to withstand the harshest weather conditions and provide the ultimate relaxation experience.

Which outdoor seating set did you choose to complete your outdoor home theater? Let us know in the comments below!

To help you plan your space, check out the POLYWOOD Outdoor Furniture Planner. We’ll ask you about the size and shape of your space, just a few quick questions, and then provide you with some furniture set results.

Blog Post Updated June 1, 2021

36 thoughts on “Planning an Outdoor Home Theater

  1. I love your idea to install outdoor light sources to help prevent stubbed toes as people walk around in the dark. My sister is thinking of hosting an outdoor movie for the family party as soon as it gets warm. I think it sounds like a really good idea as long as she looks for places to get the movie screen from so she can project the movie.

  2. Thanks for the information though, I think I would like to try these and will let you know about my experience all and to be honest, this is really awesome.

  3. You may want to suggest etiquette for these as well. I had the unfortunate experience this past weekend with my back neighbors booming a war movie, my windows were vibrating, it sounded like the booms you hear on the 4th of July. Really thoughtless, my dog was freaking out and I had to close up everything and turn my volume on the television up to the highest level.

    1. Hi Cynthia!

      Thank you for you great suggestion! Outdoor Home Theaters should most definitely be used in a respectful manner for surrounding neighbors. We would want everyone to have a positive experience.

      Thank you!

  4. Pingback: Theater Rooms are Great Investments for Your House and FamilySynergy Integrated Systems
  5. Hi Cynthia!
    Wonderful post. I’ve a question in mind, like what should be considered for the outdoor home theater, a projector or TV? Also, is it acceptable to use center channel speakers rather than HiFi speaker systems? Please do let me know. Thanks

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